Broken Shards by Elizabeth Anders (Nora Roberts Young Writers Institute)


Ella was a beautiful woman who was filled with a strange desire to be different and even stranger words which she used to whisper to me in the moonlit bliss. I loved her, and in the moments when her mind didn’t disintegrate, she loved me. We used to share many wonderful times and it saddened me to know that, at times, they were lost.

Every day, forgetful or not, she would sit at a specific table in the corner of her favorite bakery. I would join her, and if it was a day she would recall me, like today, she would acknowledge me.

“Evan?” She asked as the rain outside slowly tapered off. It produced sunshine that slid inside the window and across Ella’s golden skin.

I smiled and started playing with the buttons on my camera to turn it on. I was an amateur photographer, taking pictures of only things and people I treasured and rarely showing anyone my work. “Hello, Ella.”

On the days she’d forget, when she would tip over the boundary lines within her mind, she would shy away from my camera. Today, however, I captured her smile perfectly.

Sometime after that we found ourselves on a park bench by the river. “I missed you,” I whispered as I carefully slid my hand into hers. The people near us rushed by without a care, unaware of how much pain both Ella and I dealt with each day.

At the young ages of 22 and 23, we were promised so much more happiness than we ever received. That didn’t matter, however, when we had each other in moments like these, and Ella didn’t question who I was. These times allowed us to grasp a small snapshot of the life we could have had.

Ella leaned her head on my shoulder and turned further into me. I felt her tears slowly glide onto my skin and tried to turn to hug her, but she stopped me. “I’m so sorry I don’t remember, Evan.” She choked out.

I gently pulled her chin up and turned to face her. With the pads of my thumbs I softly wiped her tears away before looking at her seriously. “Ella, it’s okay. We’re together right now and that’s all that matters. I love you, okay?” I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and tucked her head back into my shoulder.

“I love you, too,” Her voice came out muffled against the material of my t-shirt, but that was okay. It was amazing just to hear her say it.

We spent a little more time at the park before we began to return to her apartment. I was just about to hold her hand again when a car sped by us, too close to the sidewalk for me not to worry. Ella gripped my arm tightly and almost fell before I caught her. I stood her up and looked in her eyes, which were wide and shifting, seeing memories that were best left behind.

I smoothed back the hair on her forehead and attempted to bring her out of the memory she was in. “Ella, listen to me. It’s okay. The car’s gone, sweetheart.” I could tell it was too late as she was shaking her head and pulling away from me.

A car accident a year ago took Ella’s memory and left broken pieces for the rest of us to pick up. Even now, a single car could trigger Ella to fall back into a confusing maze of memories. It was a rare kind of amnesia that puzzled the doctors. After all, how could someone recall all her memories one day and overlook them the next? It was like Ella stood in front a mirror that reflected all her loved ones back to her. Then the glass shattered into pieces that couldn’t be connected again.

I tried to reach for her but she pushed me away. She completely crumbled on the busy New York City sidewalk and I could not stop it. Then she looked at me again, this time with eyes that possessed a fearful glint. “Who are you?” And just like that, Ella was gone again. A distant memory I could not wrap around my fingers. She was in front of me but her mind deceived her into believing I was a stranger.

The prospect of the pain I would have to deal with for an indefinite amount of time was slowly becoming my reality and it panicked me. Could I continue lurking in the shadows, simply waiting for a moment when Ella remembered and loved me once again? Would the occasional picture I was able to capture be enough? Should I put the camera down and leave the damaged memories behind?

However, these were questions I would have to ponder later in the darkness of my apartment. For now, I had to take care of the girl I loved.